BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Carson and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2024-001 (20 February 2024)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Aroha Beck
  • Pulotu Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Nigel Carson


[This summary does not form part of the decision.] 

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint about comments made by the Political Editor on Newshub Live at 6pm, reporting on the first day of the new Parliament. Comments included that the Speech from the Throne sometimes sounded ‘like a National Party social media video’ and putting to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon ‘that’s National Party spin.’ The complaint alleged this should have been identified as an opinion piece, and the Political Editor should be ‘unbiased’ and stick to news, not adding opinions.

Declined to Determine: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  In an item on Newshub Live at 6pm on 6 December 2023, Political Editor Jenna Lynch reported on the opening of Parliament, 53 days after the general election, and ‘the first time the new Prime Minister went head-to-head with his predecessor’.

[2]  Various clips were shown from both the Governor-General’s opening Speech from the Throne and comments aimed between Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Leader of the Opposition Chris Hipkins in the first parliamentary debate, interspersed with commentary from Lynch, including:

  • ‘…sometimes straying to sound a little like a National Party social media video.’
  • Lynch putting to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on camera, ‘that’s National Party spin.’
  • ‘So began the debate… the Chrises switching sides and swinging sledges.’
  • (Concluding the item) ‘Parliament’s barely been open five minutes, but already, they’re putting on a hell of a show.’

[3]  Comments from Luxon and Hipkins shown in footage from the House included:

  • 'What we heard was a plan to take New Zealand backwards.’ (Hipkins)
  • ‘This could well be the most shambolic beginning of any Government in New Zealand’s history.’ (Hipkins)
  • ‘Why is he still here, after squandering and decimating an absolute majority?’ (Luxon)
  • ‘I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite as pathetic as the incoming Prime Minister literally sprinting out the door of Parliament to fly back to Auckland because he had been summonsed by Winston Peters.’ (Hipkins)
  • ‘He is actually like an arsonist… he just simply loiters and hangs around at the scene of the crime.’ (Luxon) [with Hipkins responding to reporter, ‘Did he say that, did he? …That’s a bit inflammatory.’]

The complaint

[4]  Nigel Carson emailed a complaint to the broadcaster with reference to the corresponding online article, alleging:

  • ‘[T]his is an opinion piece and not labelled as so.’
  • Lynch added ‘snark[y] opinions’ including ‘National Party social media video’ and ‘it was just National Party spin.’
  • Lynch’s articles ‘need to be unbiased’ and should not ‘add her opinions;’ the complainant and others ‘want the news not her opinions.’
  • The item was ‘a clear hit piece,’ in breach of the balance, accuracy, and fairness standards.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) addressed the complaint under the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, because the online article was a write-up of the news item originally broadcast on Three. It did not uphold the complaint or find any breach of broadcasting standards for the following reasons:

  • Providing political commentary is a key part of Lynch’s role as Newshub’s Political Editor, and permissible under the standards.
  • Lynch’s commentary and analysis was readily identifiable, and would be understood by the audience, as such. It was ‘typical of the free and frank commentary routinely presented by the Political Editor on Newshub.’
  • The reporting did not go beyond the robust scrutiny that could be reasonably expected when reporting on the first sitting in Parliament of a new Government.

Outcome: Decline to determine

[6]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[7]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.

[8]  The following factors were considered:

  • The decisions of the Authority issued over time provide guidance to broadcasters and complainants about what is acceptable under the broadcasting standards. We have consistently not upheld complaints about fairness to politicians (who can expect robust questioning and scrutiny of their policy, roles and behaviour) and this is reflected in BSA’s published guidance about complaints that are unlikely to succeed.1 The complainant has failed to identify any specific issues which might distinguish the complaint from the cases discussed in our guidance.
  • The complainant has also raised the balance and accuracy standards but without clearly identifying why the relevant broadcast breached these standards and we are unable to identify any grounds for these complaints, noting:

    (a)  The balance standard does not require news to be presented impartially or without bias. Within the limits established by the standard, broadcasters are free to challenge and express opinions.2
    (b)  No specific inaccuracies have been identified.
  • The broadcaster has responded fully to the original complaint. On referral to the Authority, the complainant has not made any further arguments or explained why they are dissatisfied with the decision.

For the above reasons, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
20 February 2024  




The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1  Nigel Carson’s formal complaint to WBD – 7 December 2023

2  WBD’s response to the complaint – 19 December 2023

3  Carson’s referral to the Authority – 8 January 2023

4  WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 17 January 2024

1 Broadcasting Standards Authority “Complaints that are unlikely to succeed” (see “Fairness applied to politicians/public figures”); See also: Frewen and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-146B; Bowkett and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-103; Cowie and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-133; Downes, Penning, Maltby, Massie & Tang and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-123; and Marra and Mediaworks Radio, Decision No. 2019-023
2 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 15